health care

457 visa scheme described as vital for rural areas of Australia

by Ray Clancy on December 9, 2016

in Jobs in Australia

Medical groups have backed support for the 457 visa programme from Australian deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce who believes that it is vital for rural parts of the country.

There has been a lot of talk recently about changing the 457 visa programme, which allows skilled foreigners to work in Australia on a temporary basis for up to four years.

DoctorCritics say that the visa is too easy to get and employers are using it as a way of getting cheaper workers from overseas. Many want it replaced along with changes to the occupation list for visas.

But Joyce has pointed out that foreign workers are essential to fill jobs in regional areas, particularly in vital jobs such as in medicine and nursing.

‘The first thing that all Australians would love in their town is an Australian doctor. If you can’t get an Australian doctor, the next best thing is a foreign doctor. It’s a real worry for people in regional Australia that if you or your child gets sick, there simply is no doctor there,’ said Joyce.

He explained that while there might now be enough doctors already in Australia the problem is that many don’t want to work in rural areas where they are most needed.

Indeed, figures show that GPs, medical officers and registered nurses are one of the most common type of 457 position held in many regional areas.

However, National MP George Christensen said other routes could be used for health workers such as the regional sponsored migration scheme, which is harder to access than the 457 visa as it needs a nomination by an approved Australian employer followed by an application under the nominated stream.

But according to the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA), 457 visas are essential in rural areas where the health system would be unable to function without workers from abroad.

They point out that while projections suggest that there will be a surplus of doctors in Australia in the next 10 to 15 years, the regions will still need specialists, nurses and allied health professionals on 457 visas.

‘Without 457 visas, we wouldn’t be able to sustain the workforce. In the past 10 years, we have invested heavily in medical students. We are hopefully moving closer and closer to self-sufficiency, but the reality is we are not there yet,’ said AMA president Michael Gannon.

RDAA president Ewen McPhee also believed that rural areas would struggle without health professionals on 457 visas as it is often a case of doctors in the wrong place with the wrong skills.

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